Using Google Trends to Estimate Bitcoin’s User Growth


Woo discusses bitcoin’s overall growth as a technology, arguing that by using common search tools, insights can be gleaned about its adoption rate.

Google Trends is a great tool for reporting search trends over time.

As I covered previously, you can use it to detect bitcoin price bubbles, and all sorts of interesting data that can inform trading strategies. With this in mind, I thought I’d use this tool to investigate the growth of active users of bitcoin.

For this, we again examine the search term ‘BTC USD’.

If you’re an active bitcoin user, it’s likely you’ll be checking the price periodically, and a proportion of users type ‘BTC USD’ into Google to do just that.

In this way, I’d argue we can use the search term as an effective proxy for the growth and engagement of active bitcoin users over time. From the chart above, we can see that the bitcoin user base is in a period of exponential growth.

Bitcoin users double every 12 months

What we have here is a steady exponential growth baseline with periodic peaks.

As covered before, these peaks are are inline with price bubbles, periods where more users head online to check the value of their wealth.

Taking readings from the baseline shows an order of magnitude of growth every 3.375 years. Or, expressed in terms of time, the user base doubles approximately every 12 months.

(In honor of Moore’s Law, I propose calling this Woo’s Law of bitcoin user growth.)

Bitcoin’s adoption curve

But what to make of our new law?

Extrapolating further, it’s possible to use this as a proxy for bitcoin’s overall adoption as a technology, using other disruptive tech as a basis point.

For example, there’s expected to be 10 billion people on this planet by 2050. If we assume the active user count of bitcoin today is 10 million, 1,000-times growth is needed to reach 100% coverage.

At current pace, that would take 10 years. Yet, in the real world all adoption curves follow an ‘S’ pattern.

If we were to assume bitcoin’s adoption curve will be a symmetric S-curve, we should reach 50% adoption in nine more years. However, to complete the last half of the ‘S’ will take 17 more years – 26 years from today, or roughly one human generation.

Will today’s children transact in a world where everyone uses bitcoin?

We shall see, but the charts tell their own story.